Mindfulness Skills4Life

The basics of mindfulness

MINDFULNESS IS SEEMINGLY EVERYWHERE

That’s a great thing, when training is offered well

 

Let’s see if we can explore what mindfulness is on a personal, experiential level using ‘real-life’ exercises to guide us through, then we will touch on some of the ‘classic’ definitions. Here goes:

 

Stressful journey to work - stuck in a traffic jam
Image credit Garry Knight (Marylebone road rush hour)

Exercise 1: Under pressure

Clear roads ahead - no traffic to worry about
Image credit Angel Ganev (rush hour Bristol, 2014)

Exercise 2: A journey to work

Exercise 1: Under Pressure

It’s Monday morning and you know you are going to be pushed to the limit on the final stage of delivery of a project you’ve been working on at work. The submission deadline is 11.30am.

Up sharp and ready to go, leaving the house 7am (30 minutes earlier than usual as you know it takes half an hour to get there – you have driven the same route every day for the last 7 years). ETA for work would be 7.30am, plenty of time to finish that last bit of work which you reckon will take about 3 hours (maybe more!) to complete. That gives you a full hour to read through and check over, as expected, before submission.

You, uncharacteristically, had to leave the job unfinished on Friday because of another unplanned, seemingly pointless and lengthy meeting with a senior work colleague. You wouldn’t be able to work on it over the weekend.

The car doesn’t start! It struggled to start over the weekend and now you recall, it’s been a bit unpredictable for a few weeks (maybe 5?).

Eventually, with the help of a neighbour, you get it started. It’s 8.15am. You start your journey to work.

 

  • How are you feeling as you are getting ready for work and going through the typical morning routine?
  • What would be on your mind as you are making your usual morning drink or having breakfast etc?
  • What thoughts would be going through your mind when the car didn’t start?
  • How do you think you would be feeling at this point – and how do you know that?
  • Can you describe the mind state you are likely to be have on your drive to work (remember you have left at 8.15 am, 30 mins drive, 8.45 am arrival and then up to or more 3 hours to complete your task) before submission at 11.30am?
  • What are you likely to notice on your drive on the way to work?
  • When eventually at work, how would you describe the attitude and pace at which you would have to approach your work?

 

Exercise 2: A journey to work

It’s Monday morning and you know you are going to be pushed to the limit on the final stage of delivery of a project you’ve been working on a work. The submission deadline is 11.30am.

Up sharp and ready to go, leaving the house 7am (30 minutes earlier than usual as you know it takes half an hour to get there – you have driven the same route every day for the last 7 years). ETA for work would be 7.30am, plenty of time to finish that last bit of work which you reckon will take about 3 hours (maybe more!) to complete and. That gives you a full hour to read through and check over, as expected, before submission.

You, uncharacteristically, had to leave the job unfinished on Friday because of another unplanned, seemingly pointless and lengthy meeting with a senior work colleague. You wouldn’t be able to work on it over the weekend.

You jump in the car, start the engine and head to work.

 

  • How are you feeling as you are getting ready for work and going through the typical morning routine?
  • How do you think you would be feeling at this point – and how do you know that?
  • Can you describe the mind state would you have on your drive to work?
  • What did you notice on your drive on the way to work?
  • When at work, how would you describe the attitude and pace at which you are approaching your work?

 

Mindfulness is all about the ‘NOW & HOW’

Being present as opposed to functioning on ‘autopilot’



rays of light through a tree - a mindful picture

Prof. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is accredited with bringing training in mindfulness to Western cultures in the late 1970s, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”


Rob Nairn, another renowned expert teacher (Mindfulness Association Ltd, UK), defines mindfulness as "knowing what is happening, when it is happening, without preference".


Regardless of the subtle differences in the words used, the sense of knowing that Kabat-Zinn, Nairn and many others describe is not simply awareness of what is happening all around us, at any given time, but also what is happening within us. Another critical element of these definitions is the quality with which we pay attention: without judgement or preference. This implies that in mindfulness training we learn skills to enable us simply to observe and bear witness to the processes of thought & thinking and how this impacts on feeling & moods. Thoughts themselves often aren't troublesome - its our habitual reactions, judgements, preferences and comparisons in relation to thoughts, thinking or feelings that bring the challenges.

Our short video clip explores mindfulness in a few minutes.

When are not fully paying attention we are said to operate on AUTOMATIC PILOT (sometimes called ‘doing-mode’). The impact of functioning in doing mode is that we can be easily caught ‘off guard’ by passing thoughts of the mind or feelings – because we simply don’t observe or feel them arising. Furthermore we tend to repeat habitual, reactive and automatic patterns of thought, feelings and reaction to any given experiences.



“Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference”

Virginia Satir


Learning to be mindful involves:

  • Knowing what is going on in the mind and body in response to present moment experiences

  • Recognising habitual and automatic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving

  • Training ourselves to be able to re-direct the attention to a focus of our own choosing

  • Cultivating new attitudes that help us relate more responsively to whatever we are engaged in



This quality of mindful awareness means:

  • We are less likely to be hijacked by passing thoughts, feelings, moods & physical sensations

  • We can chose to respond to challenge skilfully

  • We can be fully engaged and connected to what’s going on moment by moment

  • We can enjoy more fully our experience of life.



A MINDFULNESS PRACTICE

Ever heard of the phrase "the more you practice the better you get"?


Make yourself comfortable, sit back and listen to a typical, short mindfulness practice

 

There’s plenty to read, download and watch on the subject mindfulness. Training to be mindful is not complex, but takes personal effort, some commitment and practice. You can train to be mindful on a private, individual basis or in a group setting (either with others members of the general public who are keen to learn more, with work colleagues or in a school setting) but it is only effective when you train, practice and integrate mindfulness into your daily life. It’s really up to you and your personal circumstances.

So, now you have the gist of it, let’s look at the MANY benefits of training in mindfulness or mindful self-compassion or find out more about our training courses.

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